More than 800 million people reside in slums worldwide, primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America (Centre, 2010). These people often live under threat of eviction, without permanent housing, sufficient living space, or access to clean water (UN-Habitat, 2007). In South Africa, decades of legal and social inequity have led to large populations living in informal slums in and around urban areas. Apartheid legislation forced non-Europeans from urban centres into underdeveloped townships, whose severe lack of housing forced many to build their own improvised shacks. A dependence on urban areas for jobs also contributed to the growth of slums, as the non-Europeans forced out of the city flocked back to overpopulated areas to find work.

These slums contain a variety of issues related to their informality and crowding. First and foremost is the lack of space – families and shacks are crammed into almost every open space. This limits emergency vehicle access, preventing emergency services from reaching the settlements. The shacks themselves are made from a variety of low cost or discarded material – usually wood, zinc, or plastic. The heavy use of wood and crowding creates an extreme fire risk for most settlements. In terms of services, most settlements lack or have limited access to water, electricity, and proper sanitation. Beyond the physical settlement are the social issues. Most settlements lack representation, schooling, and community spaces like gardens or parks.

Reblocking is a form of informal settlement upgrading – a process intended to improve the living conditions of a community. The basic idea of reblocking is to rearrange a settlement’s structures for better service provision by the City, better community layout, and easier access for emergency services. At this point, CORC and ISN also work with community members to replace their existing shacks with improved ones, providing 80% of the funding, and obtaining materials for the new structure. Within this process, there are also considerations made for smaller social initiatives to provide a more holistic upgrade rather than simple a structural one.

Reblocking is a relatively new process, with only one project having been nearly completed in collaboration between the City of Cape Town and NGOs as of this writing. That means that while the essential ideas of reorganization, infrastructure provision, and structure improvement are well defined, the specifics of how to implement those ideas are not. Part this project’s goal was to provide an example for future reblocking projects by documenting the methods and ideas of our partnership. The organization of information in the document does not follow a formal methodology since the situation in Flamingo Crescent cannot be generalized to that extent, but instead serve as an example and point of reference for approaching new projects.